1 Great Tip For Making Better Books

Yuzen Paper Covers

So I’m definitely on some kind of extreme bookbinding kick right now, and last night I made covers for 11 new yuzen (the Japanese silkscreened paper I like so much) coptic stitch journals – meaning I covered 22 boards!

I remember a  few years ago I was reading another bookbinder’s blog and I saw a huge tower of maybe 10 coptic stitch books with the caption “what I worked on over the weekend” and I stared at it with awe and not a little envy and commented something like “Wow, I could never imagine being that fast!” – well crafters and bookbinders – I’m here to tell you that I am that fast now, and I’m going to share with you my trip for making better books:

MAKE HUNDREDS OF THEM

Ha, ok that’s not a very fun tip, but hey, I think in this day and age of instant gratification (just how quickly can you look up whale oil on Wikipedia to figure out exactly what part of the whale it comes from? I bet it’s seconds) we all need to remember that craftsmanship hasn’t changed, you still need to train your eyes, brain and fingers to do something unnatural like knitting, pottery and bookbinding, and the only way you’re going to get better, more reliable results is to practice your art.

Miter Triangles

Don't worry,I learned my lesson from last time and am saving these corners for a giveaway!

There used to be a printed out sign tacked up in my middle school band room that said “Practice makes Perfect” (I played clarinet for four years!)  and I loathed it, because honestly I hated practicing – but that sign stuck with me and now I realize it’s true. You’ll never be perfect, and perfectionism is another demon to vanquish (maybe in another post) BUT the only way you’ll get better is to allow yourself to make a huge volume of work, which over the years you’ll see go from lousy, to ok to pretty good to really nice.

At what point did you see your craft improving? Do you ever feel frustrated at not being able to “get it right”?

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5 comments to 1 Great Tip For Making Better Books

  • so true, so true what you say. I found a good way to get a “cleaner” look is to make an oooooddlle of minis of the book you want to produce,,,,they come in handy at the art markets come Xmastime,,,I have seen a difference in my craftsmanship since doing that. I gasped when I saw all those luscious corners …..you made me smile with the little caption underneath too. I can´t wait to see the stack once this project is finished….have fun!

  • Absolutely true! The more books I make the more competent I feel, and the better quality they are. I stumble these days at efficiency since I’m not making books very often, but it’s still always a joy when I do. And still “I could never imagine being that fast!” = )

  • The single most important thing my first binding teacher told me when I ran into her shortly after the class: “Oh, don’t worry about any of that. Your first ten books are going to suck. Just sew them and get them out of the way.” It was SO liberating.

  • @Cynthia & Jaime – isn’t it interesting how one binding style can affect another? I basically spent this year working on Coptic stitch, but had to make a regular case bound book for a class and I was pleasantly surprised that all that time cutting, pasting and folding helped me make the case bound book that much faster.

    @Brian – I spent one semester doing an “independent study” on bookbinding and I can’t believe now that it took me a whole semester to make a small handful of books! What good advice from your teacher

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